CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – The Australian prime minister’s threat to “shirtfront” Russia’s president during an international summit this month has prompted a dictionary to broaden its definition of the word beyond an Australian football term for a shoulder charge to an opponent’s chest.
Russian officials ridiculed the threat made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a news conference last month, warning that President Vladimir Putin was a judo expert.
Susan Butler, editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, the definitive authority on Australian English, said Monday that the controversy made her editors realise that the term had taken on a broader meaning in recent decades than an illegal maneuver on the football field.
“I don’t think that Aussie rules (football) thing – which is a head-on charge aiming to knock someone to the ground – is what was meant,” Butler said of Abbott’s threat. “It was a more general thing of grabbing someone by the shirt.”
Abbott, an athletic 56-year-old former amateur boxer, never explained what he meant by his plan to “shirtfront” Putin, 62, when the pair met on the sidelines of the annual G-20 summit of leaders of wealthy and emerging countries, held in the Australian city of Brisbane on Nov 15-16.
Abbott later tempered his language, promising a “robust discussion” when the leaders met. Abbott has demanded more cooperation from Russia on the Dutch-led investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine in July by a missile suspected to have been fired by Russian-backed rebels.
Butler said that starting in January, the Macquarie Dictionary’s online edition will offer alternative definitions of the verb “shirtfront” in addition to the word’s original football usage.